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    Loudoun’s best happy hour spots may not be a mystery

    photoTimes-Mirror photo/Jonathan Taylor Patrons enjoy happy hour at Firebirds Restaurant in the Village of Leesburg on July 20. The restaurant’s happy hour menu includes the bar’s regular selection of martinis, margaritas and cocktails.

    It’s hard to say who has the best happy hour in Loudoun County, simply because it takes some intense research (i.e. restaurant/bar-hopping) to find out who actually hosts happy hour, much less what the menus and food offerings are.

    Virginia restaurants can only talk about happy hour within the walls of their own restaurant or drinking establishment. It is currently against Virginia’s ABC laws for sellers and servers to advertise happy hour through the “media or exterior advertising,” a statute that has been on the books for over 30 years.

    The happy hour law was almost reversed this summer through a bill proposed by Virginia State Del. David Albo, (R-Springfield). But according to Kathleen Shaw, an ABC public relations representative, HB 470 was withdrawn this spring and the current laws on happy hour stand.

    This doesn’t seem to hurt local area restaurants or discourage customers from dining out after work. Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful ways to mass communicate. Throw in a bit of luring mystery and discounted menu surprises and you easily have the perfect happy hour mix.

    The law also doesn’t affect a journalist’s ability to write about happy hour… or research it. It also doesn’t affect patrons enjoying happy hour at their favorite after-work relaxation spot. Virginia isn’t Massachusetts, after all.

    With this being said, I set out to discover the best of Loudoun and came up with quite a long list. With so many great places to cool off after work, I cut the list down to my five favorite spots. The best happy hours usually stick to a certain criteria: Close to home, cheap alcohol/wine prices, good atmosphere and delicious bar food.

    Main Street Wings

    Happy hour: Monday 3 – 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday 3 – 7 p.m., and Sunday noon – 9 p.m.
    Located at 1020 E. Main St. in Purcellville, Main Street Wings offers different food specials each day of the week. The best days to go are Wednesday, for $14.99 all-you-can-eat wings and Thursdays for half-price burgers (be sure to order the sweet potato fries; they are lightly dusted in cinnamon and sugar). Domestic bottles and drafts are $2, rail drinks $3 and premium beers are $3.

    Ford’s Fish Shack

    Happy Hour: Monday through Friday, 4 – 7 p.m.
    Located at 44260 Ice Rink Plaza in Ashburn, Ford’s may be the only Loudoun restaurant offering $1 oysters during happy hour. And they are good oysters thanks to owner Tony Stafford, an experienced chef and restaurateur formerly of Bonefish Grill and Artie’s (part of Great American Restaurants). Friday nights get jam packed with patrons filling up on $1 jumbo shrimp and $3 draft beers from the New England-inspired. Drafts include local microbrews Lost Rhino and Port City, and beer snob favorites Allagash, Bass, Smuttynose, Dogfish Head and Bells.

    Caliente Mex-Sea Kitchen & Bar

    Happy Hour: Monday through Friday, 4 – 7:30pm
    One of my favorite places to visit for happy hour is Caliente. The reason? That char-grilled salsa and the addicting white corn tortilla chips. The complimentary chips and salsa are so good, you’ll forget to order $2 and $3 a la carte tacos on “Taco Tuesday.” Owner Ben Franks says Caliente makes their own sauces, seasonings and salsa in-house. Blackened tomatoes, onions, cilantro and other seasonings are blended together for the house salsa. Nibble (or gorge, like I do) on those with a half-priced draft beer or a house margarita, and you are set. “Fiesta” hours also include $3 off of any wine. Caliente is at 22885 Brambleton Plaza in Brambleton next to Fox Cinemas.

    Firebirds Restaurant

    Happy Hour: Monday through Friday, 3 – 7 p.m.
    There is a good reason Firebirds stays busy weeknights. Located at 1607 Village Market Blvd. in the Village at Leesburg, Firebirds’ kitchen consistently sends out good steaks, and the Firebar happy hour menu includes the bar’s regular selection of martinis, margaritas and cocktails. My favorite is the Cruzan Rum, fresh fruit and cranberry Siesta Sangria. Half-priced appetizers include barbeque sliders, a filling and tasty platter for a mere $3.50. Swallow that with your $5 libation.

    The Wine Kitchen

    Happy Hour: Tuesday through Friday, 3 – 6 p.m.

    One of the great “secrets” to The Wine Kitchen is the beautifully executed and delicious food. It’s the wine, especially the artistically devised wine flights, that lure in most customers after work hours. For happy hour, daily selections of red, white and sparkling wines are only $5, and select beer is $5. It would be a mistake, however, to walk out without sampling Chef Justin Garrison’s locally-sourced American menu. From 3 – 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, “pantry snacks” are only $4. Past pantry snacks have included ham and cheese croquettes and local beef meatballs with herb polenta.
    The Wine Kitchen is at 7 S. King St. in historic Leesburg.

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